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||etymology, herpetology, ologies, reemerged, biosphere, veldt, overuse, restoration, geology, reappear, organic, capacity, shrubbery, reality, impact, dwindle
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By Trista L. Pollard
1 Who would have thought we would become a planet of "ologies"? There's biology, psychology, herpetology, etymology, and geology just to name a few. However, one "ology" truly helps us to understand the most important part of our planet- our environment. Ecology (which is filled with ecologists) is the study of ecosystems and the beings and organisms that inhabit those ecosystems. Just think, in addition to the bees, deer, and other organisms, you are important to ecologists.
2 Ecosystems are communities that vary in size and location. They can be as small as a patch of grass or as large as the entire biosphere. The many varieties of plants and animals that exist in our planet's ecosystems are important to the survival of our ecosystems. Plants in particular provide the oxygen and nutrients all organisms need to survive. These producers have the ability to use the sun's energy to produce food (think photosynthesis). This is where the animals or consumers become important. The animals get their energy by eating the plants and other organisms within the ecosystem. Without the producers and consumers, decomposers would not have a job. As you may have guessed, decomposers, like bacteria, step in to break down the waste excreted from animals and the remains of dead organisms. Once broken down, the organic materials are absorbed by the soil and gases are sent back into our atmosphere. The whole process is ready to start again through the Earth's natural cycles. There has to be a balance of producers, consumers, and decomposers in order to maintain a balanced ecosystem.
3 Remember, all organisms need matter and energy to survive. An ecosystem is balanced when matter and energy move efficiently through those ecosystems. Just as your backpack has a limit on the number of huge textbooks it can carry at any given time, all ecosystems have a limit on the populations they can maintain. Carrying capacity is the largest population an ecosystem can support at any particular time. The support of this population depends on the amount of resources (matter and energy) that are available and the movement of those resources within that ecosystem. If energy and matter are moving efficiently through an ecosystem, then the current population of plants and animals has not reached beyond the ecosystem's carrying capacity. Once food resources dwindle or animal populations increase dramatically, the ecosystem may not be able to support those populations. Fortunately, nature has three ways to control the balance of ecosystems: ecological responses to change; energy transfer; and food chains and food webs.
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